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August 2021

Surfing over
the hill.

Tips to keep you shredding beyond your 40's.

Well into his fifth decade, Pro surfer Kelly Slater is proof that old age doesn't need to be a hurdle if you're willing to put the work in.

Stretching and warm-up is one of the main components of Kelly’s fitness plan to keep his body in condition for the surf and it should be part of yours too – along with watching what you eat, it goes without saying.

Why warm up?

But why is warming-up before a session so important, especially as we age? To answer this question, we talked to Dr Phil Nel – a biokineticist and surf rehab expert from the Boland in South Africa.

“Surfing is so unique as a sport, you know,” Phil says. “The act of surfing is an incredibly dynamic movement. It’s one of the few sports in the world where there are three variables of movement – being the wave moving, as well as your surfboard, and of course yourself. Curiously, if you look at the performance objective of surfing, the closest sport I can compare to it is actually gymnastics. So it’s quite funny for me to see people just jump-in and go surf without warming-up. A three-foot floater can then become a potentially dangerous movement, you know – dropping down from that height and landing, and not being able to absorb the shock and still being a bit cold.”

So if you don’t warm-up you increase your risk of injury, especially in cold water, but what are the main injuries suffered by surfers?

If you look at the performance objective of surfing, the closest sport I can compare to it is actually gymnastics.”

How surfing tries to break you.

“I’d say the most common surfing-related injuries I deal with are neck injuries. Surfers get a lot of whiplash. It doesn’t matter if you surf big waves or smaller waves, there’s always a lot of whiplash involved. So I see plenty of surfers coming into our rooms rubbing their necks.”

“After tweaked necks, sore shoulders are the next most complained-about surfing injury we treat.” Phil continues. “A typical diagnosis that a surfer will get is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome, which is commonly known as ‘Swimmer’s Shoulder’ and now days even being recognised as ‘Surfer’s Shoulder’. What I always tell my patients is that we are not designed to lie on our stomachs and paddle, and definitely not designed to lie on our surfboards and paddle for hours on end. So eventually something is going to give, and things are going to wear out. That wearing-out of the joint is normal, it’s going to happen, but we just have to see to it that we manage our joints as best we can and ensure they maintain mobility into our later years.”

“Lower back injuries are also common in surfing, specifically Facet Joint injuries. This is when you get inflammation between the facet joints, especially in the lumbar spine.” Phil explains that one of the reasons this happens is because a surfer will often get twisted into a funky position during a wipeout. “Your momentum will be trying to take you one way, while the wave wants to have its own way with you at the same time, hyperextending your muscles and joints. This hyperextension can then cause inflammation to set in, and recovery being required.”

“Knee injuries are not uncommon either. At any given time I’m treating at least one surfer with a torn knee ligament or meniscus, or heaven forbid all three at once – a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus. Last but not least we also have ankle injuries, which once again is often linked to impact from doing airs or something simple like a floater. I’ve even seen a number of surfers injure their ankles just jumping off their board and landing feet first on the shallow sandbank or reef.”

Managing your muscles and joints.

“Much of surfing involves compression and decompression – basically going into a squat and then straightening out again – and also compression combined with rotation. Those elements are important in surfing. Another element is impact absorption, you have to be able to absorb impact. For a lot of people when they compress, especially as they get older, they start bending their lower back too much, and their lower back ends up taking a lot of strain.”

Phil says this is caused by weak glutes, and that an exercise you can try is a simple squat and then test if you can rotate in that squat. If your back is too bent you can’t really rotate. In surfing if you can’t rotate, then your style becomes more lateral. So that is a big focus when Phil works with older surfers. “We also throw in some shoulder exercises to try stabilize the shoulder joint and strengthen those muscles behind the shoulder joint (external rotators), which can get weak because when we surf we basically just stretch one half of the shoulder joint.”

Linked with rotation is also hip mobility, which is another problem an older surfer has to deal with, and even with some of the younger pros that Phil has been treating. “While a lot of the pros that I work with are always carrying these little niggly injuries in their shoulder or lower back, I always try and incorporate some hip mobility exercises as well.” Phil advises.

Warm-up and recovery.

“For surfing, I think it’s important to have dynamic warm-ups. Dynamic warm-ups incorporate movements. So try walking lunges instead of a static quadricep stretch. If you look at the elite level, they are doing anything from cycling to plyometrics (jumping) type movements, and dynamic stretches like yoga or pilates type movements, and even fine motor skills exercises like throwing a ball against a wall, as well as proprioception type exercises on a balance ball or board.”

Another thing that Phil suggests is to simply keep surfing. “Go for that maintenance paddle. Don’t turn around and go home because it’s not perfect or great. Paddle out. Even if you just catch a few shitty waves, there’s nothing that can replace water time for staying in surfing shape. We saw a lot of that here in South Africa when we had those Covid-19 lockdowns, when people were not allowed to surf for months. It took a lot of the locals weeks to get back into rhythm and fitness – even the pros. It just goes to show that you need to keep your hand and foot in the water.”

August 2021

Surfing over
the hill.

Tips to keep you shredding beyond your 40's.

Lower back pain wearable physiotherapy for surfers.

Well into his fifth decade, Pro surfer Kelly Slater is proof that old age doesn't need to be a hurdle if you're willing to put the work in.

Stretching and warm-up is one of the main components of Kelly’s fitness plan to keep his body in condition for the surf and it should be part of yours too – along with watching what you eat, it goes without saying.

Why warm up?

But why is warming-up before a session so important, especially as we age? To answer this question, we talked to Dr Phil Nel – a biokineticist and surf rehab expert from the Boland in South Africa.

“Surfing is so unique as a sport, you know,” Phil says. “The act of surfing is an incredibly dynamic movement. It’s one of the few sports in the world where there are three variables of movement – being the wave moving, as well as your surfboard, and of course yourself. Curiously, if you look at the performance objective of surfing, the closest sport I can compare to it is actually gymnastics. So it’s quite funny for me to see people just jump-in and go surf without warming-up. A three-foot floater can then become a potentially dangerous movement, you know – dropping down from that height and landing, and not being able to absorb the shock and still being a bit cold.”

So if you don’t warm-up you increase your risk of injury, especially in cold water, but what are the main injuries suffered by surfers?

“If you look at the performance objective of surfing, the closest sport I can compare to it is actually gymnastics.”

How surfing tries to break you.

“I’d say the most common surfing-related injuries I deal with are neck injuries. Surfers get a lot of whiplash. It doesn’t matter if you surf big waves or smaller waves, there’s always a lot of whiplash involved. So I see plenty of surfers coming into our rooms rubbing their necks.”

“After tweaked necks, sore shoulders are the next most complained-about surfing injury we treat.” Phil continues. “A typical diagnosis that a surfer will get is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome, which is commonly known as ‘Swimmer’s Shoulder’ and now days even being recognised as ‘Surfer’s Shoulder’. What I always tell my patients is that we are not designed to lie on our stomachs and paddle, and definitely not designed to lie on our surfboards and paddle for hours on end. So eventually something is going to give, and things are going to wear out. That wearing-out of the joint is normal, it’s going to happen, but we just have to see to it that we manage our joints as best we can and ensure they maintain mobility into our later years.”

“Lower back injuries are also common in surfing, specifically Facet Joint injuries. This is when you get inflammation between the facet joints, especially in the lumbar spine.” Phil explains that one of the reasons this happens is because a surfer will often get twisted into a funky position during a wipeout. “Your momentum will be trying to take you one way, while the wave wants to have its own way with you at the same time, hyperextending your muscles and joints. This hyperextension can then cause inflammation to set in, and recovery being required.”

“Knee injuries are not uncommon either. At any given time I’m treating at least one surfer with a torn knee ligament or meniscus, or heaven forbid all three at once – a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus. Last but not least we also have ankle injuries, which once again is often linked to impact from doing airs or something simple like a floater. I’ve even seen a number of surfers injure their ankles just jumping off their board and landing feet first on the shallow sandbank or reef.”

Managing your muscles and joints.

“Much of surfing involves compression and decompression – basically going into a squat and then straightening out again – and also compression combined with rotation. Those elements are important in surfing. Another element is impact absorption, you have to be able to absorb impact. For a lot of people when they compress, especially as they get older, they start bending their lower back too much, and their lower back ends up taking a lot of strain.”

Phil says this is caused by weak glutes, and that an exercise you can try is a simple squat and then test if you can rotate in that squat. If your back is too bent you can’t really rotate. In surfing if you can’t rotate, then your style becomes more lateral. So that is a big focus when Phil works with older surfers. “We also throw in some shoulder exercises to try stabilize the shoulder joint and strengthen those muscles behind the shoulder joint (external rotators), which can get weak because when we surf we basically just stretch one half of the shoulder joint.”

Linked with rotation is also hip mobility, which is another problem an older surfer has to deal with, and even with some of the younger pros that Phil has been treating. “While a lot of the pros that I work with are always carrying these little niggly injuries in their shoulder or lower back, I always try and incorporate some hip mobility exercises as well.” Phil advises.

Warm-up and recovery.

“For surfing, I think it’s important to have dynamic warm-ups. Dynamic warm-ups incorporate movements. So try walking lunges instead of a static quadricep stretch. If you look at the elite level, they are doing anything from cycling to plyometrics (jumping) type movements, and dynamic stretches like yoga or pilates type movements, and even fine motor skills exercises like throwing a ball against a wall, as well as proprioception type exercises on a balance ball or board.”

Another thing that Phil suggests is to simply keep surfing. “Go for that maintenance paddle. Don’t turn around and go home because it’s not perfect or great. Paddle out. Even if you just catch a few shitty waves, there’s nothing that can replace water time for staying in surfing shape. We saw a lot of that here in South Africa when we had those Covid-19 lockdowns, when people were not allowed to surf for months. It took a lot of the locals weeks to get back into rhythm and fitness – even the pros. It just goes to show that you need to keep your hand and foot in the water.”

“Vibrational therapy works,
it works really well.”

Dr Phil's Thoughts on Myovolt

I then ask Phil about Myovolt and the technology involved. “Vibrational therapy works, it works really well.” He tells me before explaining that he likes that the devices are light, wearable and easy to use on-the-go. “They’re great for getting blood circulating by increasing nitric acid production in the targeted area” continues Phil. “That’s what massaging and light movements does, by bringing blood circulation to the area, that brings oxygen, which in turn brings healing and relief. The best thing about a product like Myovolt is its quick to use and you can’t over do it.”

So, armed with some great conditioning tips from Phil and a bit of Myovolt to keep you amped-up along the way, your surfing future is looking good from 40 through to over the hill.

Vibrational therapy works,
it works really well.”

Dr Phil's Thoughts on Myovolt.

I then ask Phil about Myovolt and the technology involved. “Vibrational therapy works, it works really well.” He tells me before explaining that he likes that the devices are light, wearable and easy to use on-the-go. “They’re great for getting blood circulating by increasing nitric acid production in the targeted area” continues Phil. “That’s what massaging and light movements does, by bringing blood circulation to the area, that brings oxygen, which in turn brings healing and relief. The best thing about a product like Myovolt is its quick to use and you can’t over do it.”

So, armed with some great conditioning tips from Phil and a bit of Myovolt to keep you amped-up along the way, your surfing future is looking good from 40 through to over the hill.